I know it doesn’t come as a shock, but one must step back in awe at the efforts the Madison newspaper took to spin this story in a negative way. Check out the headline and opening paragraphs:
Tax shortfall will squeeze state
The state treasury will be $94.3 million lighter by the end of the 2015-17 budget cycle because of lower tax revenues, according to an updated snapshot of state finances from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
That could affect the scope of legislation lawmakers pass this session before adjourning to campaign prior to the fall election.
Lawmakers are considering legislation to make college more affordable, provide more services to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients and help people find jobs. All will cost money, and the latest figures mean lawmakers have only about $70 million available — on top of spending already authorized — through July 30, 2017.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said in December the legislation on his agenda for the session could cost “tens of millions” of dollars. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, warned after this week’s State of the State address that the reduced figure would affect which bills the Legislature can adopt.
Whoa… crisis! We’re out of Money and the Republicans can’t pass the spending bills they are talking about without driving the state further into the red! You have to read through these 4 paragraphs before you get to this:
The state is now projected to end the current biennium with $135 million in the general fund, which is the same amount it ended the previous biennium with, according to fiscal bureau director Bob Lang.
And even there, the reporter can’t bring himself to use the word “surplus.” In fact, if you search the entire article, you will not find the word “surplus.”
Yes, that’s right, for the second budget cycle in a row, the State of Wisconsin will end with almost a $100 million SURPLUS. It’s not quite as much of a surplus as they thought it would be a few months ago, but it’s still a healthy surplus. Compare that to previous years in Wisconsin or to any of several states in the country, and that’s pretty awesome news. The Republican-led legislature and executive have managed to run the state for 4 years now and finish with more money than they expected.
That is good news irrespective of how this reporter wants to spin it. Sure, we can talk about the level of borrowing, the increase in spending, what to do with all of this unspent money, etc., but finishing a budget with a SURPLUS is a very good problem to have.